It used to be a "butt-ugly" laneway in the heart of Rochester. But dedicated locals have teamed up with an artist to transform it into a visual history of 'Australia's greatest detective' and the Iddles family. We visited the community Ron Iddles was born into to learn more about its mural, which the Rochester Business Network hopes will help make the town even more appealing to art lovers.
Glenda Nichol had been told Ron Iddles was a humble man.
Some of those closest to the former homicide detective didn't like Mrs Nichol's chances of convincing him to be featured in a mural.
"I had to ring Ron and convince him," Mrs Nichol said.
Over a mug of chai latte, the Rochester Business Network leader recalled the phone call. How she told 'the great man' - that's what his colleagues used to call Mr Iddles, Mrs Nichol said - Rochester had been doing it tough since the closure of the Murray Goulburn dairy factory.
She told him about the plans for a mural that would, she hoped, draw people to his home town. And that she believed he was the person that could excite that interest.
"He said, 'Glenda, how could I possibly say no to that?'" Mrs Nichol said.
Fast forward to this week, and the mural was well and truly underway. A sepia-toned portrait of Mr Iddles - his 'police face', as Mrs Nichol called it - grabbed people's attention from Gillies Street.
Walking a little closer to the laneway, more of the story became visible. There was a portrait of two young boys - Mr Iddles and his twin, Barry.
Near one of the boys was a picture of a TV with a still from the show Homicide - believed to be the inspiration for Mr Iddles to join the police force.
The mural went on to show other members of the Iddles family, including the boys' parents and sister Nancye.
It shared some of the highlights of an illustrious policing career spanning several decades, including a book and series about The Good Cop and his work.
And that was just what had been completed by Thursday - there were more words and pictures to come, Mrs Nichol said.
The design was the product of at least six months of research and drafting.
Artist Tim Bowtell has been working with Mrs Nichol on the project since July.
"It's by far the most complex job I've ever done, mural-wise," Bowtell said.
The design consisted of a number of portraits, lettering, and even fingerprints for background detail.
Bowtell said he had drawn on his graphic design skills to produce the piece.
He started painting last Sunday and was hopeful of having the mural done by the end of this week.
Bowtell, who was selected by the Iddles family after seeing some of his silo art, said he just hoped the family was happy with the mural.
He said he appreciated being given the opportunity to help tell such an important story.
Public art was a component of the Rochester Business Network's plan to boost the town's economic development.
The network received more than $500,000 from the federal government as part of the Murray-Darling Basin Economic Development Program to achieve its aims.
The 'Iddles Lane' mural is the first of three art projects planned using a portion of the funding, which is for three years.
Other activities include the installation of CCTV cameras, buying equipment to host lighting shows, business development, marketing, and support for the town's mural festival.
Some of the funding has already been used to install a new scoreboard.
Selecting the laneway for the first art activity was strategic.
For one thing, Mrs Nichol said the laneway used to be "butt-ugly". But, also: "To see the mural properly you have to get our of your car and walk down the laneway and into the centre of the CBD."
She said the town was already experiencing the benefits of being on the silo art trail.
"Rochester used to be a place people drove through. Now, it's a destination," Mrs Nichol said.
By offering more to see in the centre of town, she was hopeful more people would cross paths with local businesses.
The Rochester Business Network consists of about 60 members.
Mrs Nichol said members and the wider community were consulted about the mural.
"I thought I knew who suggested Ron Iddles but when I went to thank [that person] he said, 'Glenda, it wasn't my idea'," she said.
The idea appealed because of the high regard with which the former detective was held, locally and more broadly.
"He's like God around here," Mrs Nichol said.
Even those who didn't personally know Mr Iddles felt like they did, she said, because he had been in the public eye for so long.
"I had to think of who would bring the most people to come to town to look at it," Mrs Nichol said.
"I believe an enormous number of people from Melbourne will come and see it."
Mr Iddles said he was among those who would visit to see 'Iddles Lane' and the mural. He had been receiving progress updates from Mrs Nichol as Bowtell painted.
"It's an honour, but it's also very humbling," he said.
"I hope the town can actually get something out of it."
He lived in the Rochester area until the age of 16, and said he "never expected to achieve" what he had in his career.
Mr Iddles investigated more than 300 homicides and has been credited with a 99 per cent court conviction rate.
He attributed his professional achievements to the values instilled in him by his parents.
Some of their beliefs and values feature in the mural's design.
"I've never done it alone, I've always worked as a team," Mr Iddles said.
He said he was grateful to Victoria Police for giving him the opportunities he'd had. After leaving the police force, he became head of the police union. He has since retired.
Even retirement hadn't been quiet, with awards and nominations resulting from the series Ron Iddles: The Good Cop.
Mrs Nichol said that had been part of the challenge in putting together the draft for the mural.
"Every time I thought I was finished I would find [out] more," she said.
"I wanted to get every aspect of Ron's life that I thought was important on the wall."
She said she had wanted people to be able to relate to the wall, whether they knew Mr Iddles or not.
For some people, just the realisation that the man believed to be "Australia's greatest detective" was from Rochester was news. Others didn't know he had a twin.
Bowtell said it had been interesting painting and listening to people's comments, both about the process and the subject matter.
Mr Iddles said Mrs Nichol ought to be commended for the work she had done on the project.
For those young people who were in a position much like he was at the age of 16, he said: "If you have a dream and you want to follow it, set yourself some basic goals and achieve it."
If that dream meant moving to another area to achieve their goals, Mr Iddles urged them never to be afraid of it.
"Step out of your comfort zone," he said.
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